Bid To Put 66 Children In Care
Sydney Morning Herald/1992-05-18
By LINDSAY SIMPSON
The Director-General of the NSW Department of Community Services, Mr Vern Dalton, will make an application before the Cobham Children's Court today for 66 children seized from their parents on Friday to be placed in the department's care.
The department's Deputy Director General, Mr David Marchant, said six of the 72 children originally seized, aged 15 and 16, would be returned to their parents on the grounds that "no protection or benefit can be gained by bringing them into care in their adolescence".
It is believed that the grounds the department is using range from physical abuse, education, specific needs for a disabled child, emotional abuse to a question of responsibility for the children.
Mr Chris Murphy, representing 11 parents of the children, criticised the department's decision last night.
"I think it's a fiasco," he said. "They are dividing up families of children and returning some and not others, even though they are all supposed to be subject to the same influences. They have arrested the children only for the purpose of investigation. I am also suspicious that they are releasing the older and more articulate children."
He said the "whole exercise will be a disaster for the department".
Mr Marchant said the children were taken after police obtained warrants from a magistrate and that they were removed because they were believed "to be in need of care".
A mother of seven children seized said that one of the other mothers told her one of her children was carried outside while still asleep.
"He woke up in somebody else's arms."
She said members of one family were concerned about their five-year-old boy, who had cerebral palsy and had been following a specific program from the Glen Doman Institute in Melbourne.
"The parents are sure the entire exercise will set him back in his learning," she said.
Mr Murphy said the children had been "legally kidnapped" from "exemplary accommodation" in middle-class homes.
A total of 142 children, aged between 2 and 16, were taken into custody after dawn raids on homes in Sydney, Melbourne and country Victoria.
In Sydney, 72 of the children were bundled out of four homes in Cherrybrook, Castle Hill and Baulkham Hills.
Mr Murphy asked Dr Greg Woods, QC, to inspect three of the Sydney homes yesterday. He said Dr Woods, who will represent some of the parents, found that the homes were of "very high quality accommodation". One had recently been listed for sale at $1.7 million.
"If the parents had committed any crime they would have been charged by now," Mr Murphy said.
"In the absence of charges, we can only assume they have done nothing wrong.
"They are not Children of God. They are three well-conducted Christian communities which don't teach any abhorrent practices.
"They (police) have taken these children on some harebrained investigative basis."
On Friday, it was alleged that the parents were members of the Children of God sect and an official of the Victorian Department of Community Services referred to the parents as sect members after a late-night hearing in the Children's Court.
The sect has been the subject of investigation in the past because of claims that children in its care have been sexually abused.
Mr Murphy said he had been told that the Department of Community Services was acting "on police information", but he had not been told what the accusations were. He said the parents slept in a separate room from the children.
"The only pictures that adorn the walls are pictures of Jesus," he said. "The only videos are messages of Christian inspiration. The house was neat, with a clean kitchen and tidy lawns.
"Some of these people are ex-Children of God - they are a reformed Christian Community - they do everything the church preaches. What has happened in the past has nothing to do with these people now. There is no suggestion of these children being physically abused."
He said the Department of Education had given approval for the children to be educated at home in two of the houses. A home at Cherrybrook had six to eight bedrooms.
Mr Murphy said the family had been there for a long time and neighbours, who spoke highly of them, were prepared to give evidence in their favour.
He said all the homes were rented.
Mr Marchant said independent observers had been brought in to oversee the assessment of the children at the weekend.
A Sydney cult expert, the Rev Dr David Milliken, spoke to some of the parents and said many were "deeply distressed" at being denied access to their children.
He said they were "angry that the Government has treated a series of community households as if they were one community holding the same beliefs".
Dr Milliken said many people claimed they had distanced themselves from the sect and lived quasi-Christian lives in community houses.
Queensland authorities said yesterday they were investigating possibilities that members of the sect may be living in that State.